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The start of triathlon in Australia
Triathlon came to Australia in the early 1980s after developing mainly on the West coast of the USA in the mid to late 1970s. The first State Triathlon Associations were formed in late 1984 and early 1985. In May 1986 at Broadbeach, Queensland the Triathlon Federation of Australia was formed with Dr. Jim Hazel (after whom the Australian Ultra distance Championship Trophy is named) from Sydney becoming the inaugural President and Geoff Frost from Melbourne the Vice President. In 1991 the name of the national Governing Body was changed to Triathlon Australia.
TA became a founding member of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) upon its formation in April 1989 in Avignon France. The first ITU World Championships were also held in Avignon in August of that year. The distances chosen were to become the standard in short course triathlon racing - 1.5 km swim 40km cycle and 10 km run. As the swim was the equivalent of the longest Olympic pool event, the bike was the standard international time trial distance and the run the longest Olympic track event, the term "Olympic Distance" quickly became shorthand for the standard course.
Australian triathletes were successful almost from the start, with Greg Welch picking up the Elite Male World Championship title in Florida 1990. Miles Stewart followed up with a home town win in 1991 on the Gold Coast. In the female category, Michellie Jones won successive championships in Muskoka Canada in 1992 and Manchester in 1993. From that year on Australia’s dominance of the sport at the elite level has been such that we now hold 19 senior World Championship titles. Australia clearly heads the list of World Championship titles with Great Britain second on 10 titles. If we add the success of our U23 and Junior Elite athletes over the years, with another nine titles, Australia is undoubtedly the most successful triathlon nation in ITU World Championship racing.
The continued success of our elite and age group athletes at numerous World Championships has been augmented by success at Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Australia has achieved podium finishes at all three Olympic Games. In 2000, the silver medal was won by Michellie Jones, in 2004 the silver medal was won by Loretta Harrop and in 2008 Emma Snowsill won the Gold medal. The two Commonwealth Games in which triathlon appeared were also successful hauls for Australia. In 2002 we won two medals and in 2006, we won the Gold medal and two minor placings.
Australia is currently the leading nation in the sport of Triathlon. Most recently, in 2010, Australia achieved a “clean sweep” of the ITU Female World Championship events: Emma Moffatt is the reigning Elite World Champion, Emma Jackson is the reigning U23 World Champion and Ashleigh Gentle is the reigning Junior World Champion. Brad Kahlefeldt achieved 3rd place in the Elite Men’s World Championship.
The spectacular wins by Chris McCormack and Mirinda Carfrae in the 2010 World Ironman Championships proves to the world that we are the nation to beat over longer distances as well.
2011 was another inpressive year, with Australian athletes winning both the 70.3 Elite Female and Elite Male World Champions; Melissa Rollison and Craig Alexander. Craig Alexander did what no professional athlete had ever done before that year, and won both the 70.3 World Championships and the Ironman World Championships in the same year, proving to the world that at the age of 38, he is still one of the greatest male triathletes of all time.